Norwegian vessel operators’ federation Fiskebåt is urging the Norwegian authorities to re-negotiate the bilateral protocol between Norway and Iceland, part of the 1999 agreement between Norway, Russia and Iceland on the area in the Barents Sea that lies beyond national EEZs.
The original Smutthullet (Loophole) agreement dates back to 15th May 1999, which was valid to the end of 2002, and renewed automatically unless one of the partner nations were to decide to terminate it.
Fiskebåt has written to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade & Industry, stating that the agreement in respect of Iceland is currently not in Norway’s favour, and according to Fiskebåt, numerous obstacles are placed in the way of Norwegian vessels operating in Icelandic waters, while the Icelandic fleets faces minimal interference in fishing its quotas in Norwegian waters.
Fiskebåt’s representative states that considering the war in Ukraine, it is hardly a suitable moment to seek to renegotiate the agreement as a whole between Norway, Russia and Iceland – but the federation is urging the Norwegian authorities to address changes that could be made to the sections of the agreement relating to the relationship between Norway and Iceland.
Among the items that Fiskebåt is requesting the Norwegian authorities push for are changes to restrictions on longline fishing for ling, blue ling and tusk, with fewer restrictions and more flexibility relating to by-catch levels, as well as addressing the imbalance in the capelin fishery in Icelandic waters. Fiskebåt is pushing for the Norwegian pelagic fleet to have a longer season, to be extended from 15th February to 1st April, the removal of the restrictions on fishing south of 63°N, fishing with pelagic trawls and the number of vessels that can be active at the same time.
Fiskebåt has also requested that Norway should seek assurances from Iceland that Icelandic citizens should not hold ownership interests in vessels that contravene Barents Sea fisheries management measures.